Where Were You?

Colleen and Craig at the top of the World Trade Center in 1999.

Colleen and Craig at the top of the World Trade Center in 1999.

Many, if not most Americans from the generation immediately before me seem to frame time around the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Over the years, I’ve repeatedly heard others ask and answer the question, “Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?” Now, it seems that question has been replaced with “Where were you on 9-11?” So, for all of those who will ask …

Colleen and I, and our friend Bill had just picked up an Israeli diplomat’s son at the foreign ministry in Jerusalem and were driving to a baseball game at Gezer when he received the initial news feed via a pager that each diplomat’s family members carry. But what was coming through the pager was incomprehensible for all of us in the car: A plane flew into the World Trade Center? As we continued to drive, the reports continued to come in with more details. But, more reports didn’t make things clearer; the story was so bizarre that we couldn’t understand what was going on.

After the game, we returned to Jerusalem and stopped over at Bill’s landlord’s apartment where the large screen TV was tuned into the news feed. Bill’s landlord was an elderly gentleman who had been a taxi driver in New York City in his earlier years. He was in shock as he was glued to the video footage, and kept muttering, “I’ve been there thousands of times; right there.” Over and over, he kept repeating the same thing, “I’ve been there thousands of times; right there.” Like everyone else, we were stunned and simply couldn’t believe what we saw on the television screen.

During the rash of suicide bombings in Israel (1990s-2000s), people frequently measured their closeness to the latest bombing by recounting the last time they had been in that location (sometimes only minutes prior) or by predicting the next time they would have been there. I think that is a fairly normal response to a momentous event, particularly an overwhelmingly life threatening or negative one.

We, too, have done that regarding 9-11. Less than 3-weeks prior we had passed near the World Trade Center with members of the Israel National Baseball Team on my birthday, August 26. Several of us were ending our first US baseball visit by going to see the Staten Island Yankees. We took the Staten Island Ferry to the game and then returned to Manhattan the same way, passing near the WTC once again.

We were also in the area shortly after the attack. After things were somewhat sorted out and flights were resumed at Newark International Airport (where Flight 93 originated), Colleen and I were on the first flight from Israel to arrive at Newark on the morning they re-opened for international flights.

On the separate, though semi-related matter of security post-9-11, we had an interesting view. We had been blessed with the rare opportunity to fly back to the States in business class. It was strange to see the other passengers receive their wine in clear plastic cups rather than the traditional wine glass, which had been a staple of flying up front. When the flight attendant brought our silverware for dinner, the fork and spoon were typical metal airline cutlery. The knife, however, was the cheap plastic picnic variety.

After arriving at the international hall we went through customs and then walked around to the domestic side where we had to return through security once the gates were opened. We were among the first people in line waiting to get through the security checkpoint, and our early arrival gave us the opportunity to see close-up how unprepared security was, even after implementing a new protocol. It was an absolute train wreck. The security agents didn’t know the answers to simple questions like, What do we do with our computers? What about our cell phones? The agents outside the security gate were literally hollering across the line, “Hey, what are we doing with computers and cell phones?” We were shocked that the security agents, in spite of a lengthy shutdown, had no idea what they were doing.




  1. Good recap of a sad day!

  2. I remember being at work and everyone being concerned about yours and Colleens safety, and when I called how relieved we all were that nothing was happening in Israel.

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